Viktor Axelsen emerged victorious in Malaysia, continuing his winning ways with his second consecutive PETRONAS Malaysia Open 2023 title after outclassing Japanese young star Kodai Naraoka in the final match at Axiata Arena today.
The 29-year-old Axelsen had expected today’s encounter against the 21-year-old Japanese to be a close affair, but in the end, it turned out to be a one-sided encounter as the Dane ruled the courts and blew the Japanese away in just 40 minutes.
Playing in his ninth straight Super 1000 final and stepping into the courts with a 3-1 head-to-head winning record, Axelsen started aggressively in the first game, leaving no room for Naraoka to reply before taking the game in just 15 minutes.
Naraoka tried hard to bounce back in the second game, forcing Axelsen into making several unforced errors but it was not long before the world No.1 stepped up his game to eventually finish off Naraoka 21-15 and walked home with the USD87,500 prize money.
“Yes, I expected a close game against Kodai, but I could see from the start that he was a bit tired, probably after playing too many matches here this week. That was when I played a high pace game and didn’t give him many chances,” said Axelsen, who now holds a 4-1 head-to-head winning record over the Japanese.
Axelsen attributed his success to having a good balance in life and having a beautiful family which kept his mind off the pressure of competitive badminton.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi played well to clinch her first Malaysia Open title and redeemed her first-round loss in last year’s Open, after beating arch-rival An Se Young.
Yamaguchi who became the second Japanese player to win the women’s singles of the Open, however, had to contend with a hard-fought tussle by the Korean young star before claiming the title with a 69-minute match of 12-21, 21-19, 21-19.
“I was not really settled in the first game but managed to match Se Young in the second game and regained my confidence,” said Yamaguchi.
Indonesian top pair Fajar Alfian-Muhammad Rian Ardianto were in their element, finally clinching their first Super 1000 after beating China’s Liang Wei Keng-Wang Chang (CHN) 21-18, 18-21, 21-13 in 67 minutes.
“We’re extremely happy with our first Super 1000 title. This will surely motivate us to work even harder throughout the season,” said Fajar.
World champion Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan restored China’s domination in the women’s doubles, winning their second title in the Open after outplaying Korean pair Baek Ha Na-Lee yu Lim 21-16, 21-10 in 52 mins.
Meanwhile, top mixed doubles pair Zheng Si Wei-Huang Ya Qiong, who has won all tournaments except the Japan Open in the last 18 months, also lived up to their top billings by winning their fourth consecutive Malaysia Open title.
The world No.1 outclassed Japan’s Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino 21-19, 21-11 in just 44 minutes.
“We’re very motivated and excited to have won our fourth title in Malaysia. What a perfect way to start the year, and it certainly gives us extra motivation to do well in our upcoming tournaments. For now, we need to recover before heading for the India Open,” said Zheng.
FINAL RESULTS (Sunday, 15 Jan)
(1) Viktor Axelsen (DEN) bt Kodai Naraoka (JPN) 21-6, 21-15
(1) Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) bt (2) An Se Young (KOR) 12-21, 21-19, 21-11
Fajar Alfian-Rian Ardianto (INA) vs Liang Wei Keng-Wang Chang (CHN) 21-18, 18-21, 21-13
(1)Chen Qing Chen-Jia Yi Fan (CHN) bt Baek Ha Na-Lee Yu Lim (KOR) 21-16, 21-10
(1)Zheng Si Wei-Huang Ya Qiong (CHN) vs (3)Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino (JPN) 21-19-21-11